My media production studio, X-Ray Ultra, is based in New York City.
How did you get interested in investigating Sandy Hook? What made you interested in it? Why did you start to get suspicious of the official narrative?
I first started to get interested in the alternative Sandy Hook theories when I saw the helicopter footage of police chasing someone into the woods directly in back of the school. The Newtown Bee later reported this person was an armed, off-duty, tactical (SWAT) police officer from another town. Eye witnesses on the scene reported to the media that this person was taken out of the woods, paraded in front of the parents, and placed in the front of a police car. I found it suspicious that the media was not reporting much on this aspect of the Sandy Hook event, and that spurred my own independent investigation.
Have you been suspicious of the official narrative of other events (9/11 etc?)
I am suspicious of both mainstream and alternative media, and I try to make an informed opinion on current events by thinking critically about important issues. Some topics that I’ve been researching recently include the trial of Bradley Manning, and the U.S. drone bombing campaign in the Middle East.
Why have so many people focused on Gene Rosen, as you did?
Gene Rosen has made several contradictory statements to the media, like how many girls and boys he brought into his house. When I visited Sandy Hook, I spoke to several neighbors, eye-witnesses, who say Gene Rosen was driving a black car in front of the fire house around the time of the shooting. This information seems to contradict Gene’s version of events. I think the police should look into this matter further.
Do you think the community of people questioning Sandy Hook is growing/static/shrinking since the incident?
I think many people who have taken an objective look at all the facts concerning Sandy Hook have walked away with valid questions. Questions which deserve to be addressed by mainstream media outlets or law enforcement officials.
I guess Alex saw that I had posted my responses on this site here before sending them to him, and I soon received a response from the reporter on my answers:
I don't mind if you post your answers to my questions on your website, but would appreciate an email response as well. How about a few more, feel free to post answers there too. Do you have any qualms about secretly recording people? It looks like you're safe within Conn's wiretap and eavesdropping laws, did you check before to make sure?
The topic of secretly recording people is a longer conversation that I’d be happy to have with you at a later date, but suffice to say: yes, I did look up Connecticut’s laws on recording conversations and made sure I was in compliance with them.
Do you understand why some families find this kind of work disrespectful of the loved ones they lost? What would you say to the families if you met one on the street?
If I saw one of the alleged victim’s family members on the street: I would tell them that, if they really lost their child, I am truly sorry. If they wanted to speak further on the subject, I’d certainly listen. I suppose some of the alleged victim’s families will naturally want to move on. For example, Veronique Pozner,asked the doctors not to autopsy her son. She felt his body had suffered too many indignities. However, we know from Dr. Carver’s statements that they apparently went ahead with this procedure anyway. In an investigation, criminal or otherwise, it is sometimes necessary to ask tough questions.
What's your best guess about what happened at Sandy Hook?
There is aerial footage of police chasing a man into the woods and detaining him. The Newtown Bee says he was an armed, off-duty, tactical SWAT police officer. Parents at the school that morning told a local news channel that this strange man was taken out of the woods in handcuffs by the police. He was dressed in dark camouflage, and as they passed by the parents, the man said “I didn’t do it.” The Camo Man was then placed in the front of a police car. There is also a police scanner report from that morning about their search for a maroon van with its back window shot out. This van was fleeing the scene of the crime. Police initially said there were multiple shooters. The mainstream media and law enforcement officials have since tried to cover-up these facts.
What's you affiliation with WBAI?
I have worked as a guest, and behind-the-scenes, for several of their shows including John Murdock’s “Occupational Hazards” (I went to the Tampa RNC with him last year) and Ellis Roberts’ “Class War Radio.” I worked as an assistant for Tony Bates, former program director at WBAI and did the GuitArmy “99 Mile March” with him (from Philadelphia to New York City), and I’ve participated in several of their outside events like “Readings from the Civil War” which was hosted by Hugh Hamilton. One of the many theater groups I belong to leases rehearsal space from the station.
BH: Hey Alex, those answers i posted were merely a first draft, but i suppose you're free to use them if you wish, and we'll just keep them as my final answers. I will try to address your other questions tonight as well. It has come to my attention that you've written several articles about Sandy Hook skeptics, not exactly portraying them in the best light, so I would just hope that you be an objective reporter with new this article you're writing. It's obviously a very serious subject. Thanks.
PS - can i ask if this will be an unedited interview, or will you be picking and choosing certain quotes?
Alex:I've never pretended to be an "objective" reporter and neither does Salon pretend to be "objective," whatever that even means, we have a point of view and are very upfront with that. However, I am fair and can promise you I will be to you. I've interviewed plenty of people I disagree with and they've been very happy with the results (for instance Charles Johnson on Sandy Hook, you can see our interview posted on his website). That means that even if we disagree, I will give you a fair hearing and let you express your views and never ever try to misrepresent what you say to me or take things out of context. I try to relate to people human to human, not adversaries in some kind of battle of ideas. I can't post an unedited interview, as this will be a narrative article and comments from other people as well as my own analysis, but you are free to post our entire exchange on your website. If you want to speak on the phone, you're free to record it and post that. I'm trying to understand where you're coming from, even if I never end up agreeing with. Let me know, thanks.
BH: from wikipedia: "Objectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism. Journalistic objectivity can refer to fairness,disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of these qualities. In the context of journalism,objectivity may be understood as synonymous with neutrality." <-- i would have assumed, being a professional journalist, you'd be familiar with the concept. You say you are "fair" so i guess im just a little confused why you think it differs from being objective. I intend on answering your other questions, but i hope you will take what im saying here into consideration. if by a "narrative article" you plan on categorizing my views as "bizarre" or "crazy" as you have done to others in previous articles, i would prefer to not do the interview. but if you can assure me that you will represent my views fairly, and in context, then that is all im asking.
Alex: I can absolutely assure you that I will represent your views fairly and in context. I of course am very familiar with the term objectivity and its use in journalism, but I don't think anyone can ever really be objective by human nature and that the way "objective" journalists try to achieve objectivity is silly and sometimes harmful, but that's an entirely different conversation! Sorry, didn't mean to side track with a discussion of my theories on media. Anyway, yes. Your views will be fairly represented, I assure you. I'll even let you approve the quotes if you really want. And of course you are still free to post entire exchange on you website and call me a liar if I'm not satisfactorily fair.
BH: If you let me approve the quotes that would be really nice of you. Thanks for the assurance that my views will be represented correctly. I hope you can understand my trepidation considering some of the language you've used to describe those who question the official story. and haha i trust that it will not get to the point where we are calling each other names like "liar" or "crazy."
Alex: I don't think I've called anyone "crazy" (in a professional sense, at least, my friends are a different matter), but sounds good.
BH: i was referring specifically to your article "Meet the Sandy Hook Truthers" where you begin with the line "in the crazy world of Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, this one may be the worst yet" -- but be that as it may, ill be in touch later tonight (possibly tomorrow morning depending on when i get home) with the rest of the answers.
Here is the article the printed about me: http://www.salon.com/2013/03/20/sandy_hook_truthers_are_not_giving_up/
Sandy Hook truthers are not giving up
Brendan Hunt is nothing like the other Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists we’ve encountered. Yes, he thinks the December shooting was a kind of hoax to help the government seize power. But he’s not some right-wing “gun nut.” He’s not a militia member. And he’s not middle-aged and living in the middle of the country. Hunt is in his 20s and lives in New York City, where he is an “actor, musician, artist and independent journalist.” He’s starred in Shakespeare plays and independent films and written books and news reports. His roots aren’t in the radical-right or libertarian movements, but on the left side of the political spectrum, where he’s aligned himself withOccupy Wall Street and says he’s produced segments for WBAI, a well-known public radio station in New York affiliated with the proudly “radical” left-wing Pacifica network.
And this isn’t Hunt’s first conspiracy rodeo. He has an e-book positing that Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain did not commit suicide, but was in fact murdered, and a movie about the Illuminati.
Hunt and a friend took a ride up to Newtown, Conn., to produce an “exposé” recently. In his videos, he identifies himself as a reporter with WBAI as he travels around speaking with residents, including Gene Rosen, the man who helped save six children and has been harassed by conspiracy theorists for it. (Several officials at WBAI did not immediately return requests for clarification on Hunt’s affiliation with the station.)
Wearing hoodies, Hunt and the friend come upon Sandy Hook Elementary from the woods in the back. They gingerly approach the fence line, taking time to point out the barbed wire and sign, noting that it’s under electronic surveillance. They point out key locations where they think one of the extra gunmen may have escaped through the woods while fleeing the scene.
“I believe that this event was pulled off by a group of tactical police officers of some kind, working as a unit, and that they didn’t complete their job in time, before the local police showed up and busted up whatever operation they had going,” he says in another video.
At the Masonic Lodge, which is — of course — involved in their theory, they find an ominous sign: A Masonic “G” written on the pavement. They try to peer inside the building through the windows. “I can barely make out a fridge and things like that,” one says.
Later they surreptitiously record a conversation with a bartender, whose real name they repeat. Hunt burps, complains about needing to make better “rendezvous points” with his buddy, and leaves huge portions of unedited video as he wanders around looking for his friend in the dark.
It’s not exactly the Zapruder film. The footage is innocuous and low-budget. One gets the impression that these are kids harmlessly goofing around, acting out a little secret mission in the woods. But with the power of the Internet, that little mission can be amplified to anyone looking, which makes the next part a bit disturbing.
Outside a tidy white house, the screen goes dark. It’s Gene Rosen’s house and Hunt hides the camera to surreptitiously record audio. When he answers, Hunt introduces himself: “My name’s Brendan from WBAI. I have a little radio show and TV show.”
“WBAI in New York City?” Rosen asks inquisitively. “Yeah,” one of the two friends responds. “It’s a neutral blog we’re doing, we’re sort of trying to play both sides, we’re not, you know …” the other says, before trailing off.
Rosen says he’s been through a lot already with the truthers and isn’t really interested in talking more. The two friends say they totally understand where he’s coming from, and agree those truthers are terrible. Rosen declines the interview (as he did for this story, citing a desire to avoid encounters like this).
Jeffrey Pyle, a First Amendment lawyer with the Boston-based law firm Prince Lobel, tells Salon that while Connecticut requires all parties to consent to being recorded over the telephone, only one person needs to consent in person, so the recording is probably kosher.
They return later that night. “You can get a close look at Gene’s house,” he says zooming in on the white house, while remarking about nearby landmarks and road names, making the location easily identifiable. He continues to “snoop around,” but eventually backs off to avoid raising suspicion.
The two friends are hardly intimidating — Hunt proactively asks a police officer if he’s not allowed to be where he’s standing at one point in the video — but the video suggests the Truther conspiracy is more resilient than many suspect, and how this kind of “just asking questions” could lead to unintended consequences.
Hunt and I went back and forth in an interview over many rounds of emails. After I sent him some questions, he posted them on his website with answers, and asked commenters to edit them before he’d send them back to me. He later seemed to get cold feet.
In the publicly posted answers on his website, he started off eager to talk, saying, “I think there are some real discrepancies in the official narrative, which deserve to be looked at by mainstream media outlets. I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.” That quickly turned to suspicion: “It has come to my attention that you’ve written several articles about Sandy Hook skeptics, not exactly portraying them in the best light.”
Asked about his interest in conspiracy theories, Hunt says he’s “suspicious of both mainstream and alternative media, and I try to make an informed opinion on current events by thinking critically about important issues. Some topics that I’ve been researching recently include the trial of Bradley Manning, and the U.S. drone bombing campaign in the Middle East.”
“I first started to get interested in the alternative Sandy Hook theories,” he explains, “when I saw the helicopter footage of police chasing someone into the woods directly in back of the school.”
The last time we checked in with the Sandy Hook truthers, the movement was flagging a bit after a meteoric rise in the month following the shooting.
But the theory has shown surprising resilience, spiking back up near its record high again and again in the last few weeks on social media. For instance, on February 19, a video purporting to show that victims’ families are “crisis actors” got social media 150 simultaneous mentions, according to Topsy, another claiming to be the “ultimate” hoax video got almost 200 a week later, and a third “official” video climbed even higher the next week. And it’s been climbing in the past week, since March 12. And this time, outside the gaze of the media, the interest seems to be driven by the conspiracy websites, not mainstream news reports.
David Mikkelson, the co-founder of the myth-busting website Snopes.com, tells Salon the Sandy Hook material is currently “warm,” if not the single most dominant topic he’s monitoring: “There’s a fair amount of interest, but there are many topics (e.g., Angolan witch spider, burundanga, Facebook privacy warnings) that are generating far more search/inquiry interest on our site right now.”
Will it ever go away? “I’d say, like all conspiracy theories, it’ll hang around for a while — holding less interest for the general public over time, but never going away completely,” Mikkelson explains. “I think a lot of the interest or belief is driven by the fact that we still know so little about the shooter and his motivations, so people naturally try to fill in the blanks (as they did with, say, the JFK assassination) by positing that the whole thing must have been part of a larger and grander plot rather than an act committed by a single person for no sensible reason.”
Indeed, the Hartford Courant excoriated officials in a recent editorial for “clamping down” on information. “Secrecy feeds into the whispers of those conspiracy theorists who believe that the police have something to hide,” the editors wrote.
After the Newtown town clerk was “inundated” by requests for death certificates of the children killed, lawmakers considered restricting access to the documents, but that only fueled the theorists and prompted a resurgence in activity on conspiracy message boards as people assumed there must be something to hide.
“We are being denied to see the death certificates to prove that children actually died in Sandy Hook. At this time, there are no actual photos of them dead, body bags, or videos of them in the school,” wrote one poster on LiveLeak. “How come for the first time ever, they are trying to cover up the Death Certificates?”
This cycle of conspiracy theory and government secrecy is typical, experts explained to me, putting officials in an awkward lose/lose situation when it comes to tamping down myths. If they release more information, it might be mined for inconsistencies with initial reporting, which is always spotty and often wrong. If they don’t release more information, it will be taken as proof positive that there is something fishy going on.
If Hunt’s material is any indication, this is what’s happening with Sandy Hook. In other words, the movement is far from over.